By Pooja Sharma
While the world is transitioning toward leveraging and accelerating the adoption of digital technologies and services across all workflows and domains, cyberattacks and security breaches have become commonplace across organizations, especially the healthcare domain.
Based on the Checkpoint Research (CPR) data:
- Compared to 2021, global cyberattacks registered a 38% uptick in 2022.
- In Q4 2022, the global volume of cyberattacks recorded an all-time high with an average of 1168 weekly attacks per organization.
- Healthcare was among the top 3 most attacked sectors.
With these statistics, healthcare cybersecurity is rapidly inching closer to becoming hot button issue for IT professionals and healthcare workers as the possible turmoil caused by a complete overhaul in online security is just too consequential for many institutions even to consider.
Why is cybersecurity in healthcare the need of the hour?
Patient data is valuable. Therefore, maintaining cybersecurity in healthcare holds the utmost importance when it comes to safeguarding patients’ privacy and safety while lowering the risk of costly interruptions in clinical care. Since a massive amount of patient data is stored, managed, and transmitted on medical equipment, mobile devices, and servers, healthcare facilities, including private clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies, have become welcome sites for cybercriminals.
These trends are further accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic that accelerated the shift toward distanced care or telehealth. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, hacking is among the greatest threats today to the privacy and security of protected health information.
The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reported that breaches involving unsecured Protected Health Information (PHI) affected more than 500 individuals, reaching 714 in 2021 from 663 in 2020. These trends and challenges have exposed healthcare facilities to numerous vulnerabilities, prompting health service providers to look for more robust and reliable solutions to maintain safe operations while offering remote patient care. This, in consequence, will open new growth avenues for the healthcare cybersecurity industry over the coming years.
Ransomware threats- a major concern for the healthcare industry
- “In 2022, 25% or one-fourth of all ransomware attacks were targeted at the healthcare sector.
- In 2021, among 14 critical infrastructure industries, public health sectors, and healthcare reported the most ransomware attacks, 148 out of 649.”
Ransomware attacks in healthcare have witnessed a tremendous rise over recent years, compelling hospitals to distract patients while their systems are down. As per the latest survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the wrath of ransomware incursions on patient care is one of the biggest challenges and risks the healthcare industry faces today. 93% of the respondents that took part in the survey faced one to five ransomware-related incidents in the last two years, while nearly 50% experienced a ransomware attack. Majority of these incidents were caused due to compromised cybersecurity controls with third-party vendors, products, and outdated internal systems.
The reason why these have become a serious concern for the healthcare sector is not only because they involve data theft and ransom but also because they can have life-threatening impacts on patient care. To quote an instance, in 2021, a lawsuit was filed alleging that after a ransomware attack, a baby operating under downtime procedures in an Alabama hospital died as the tech required to identify the baby’s despair was offline.
These devastating impacts of ransomware attacks have invoked the necessity for more significant insight into care morbidity impacts, creating a favorable growth outlook for the healthcare cybersecurity market.
U.S.- a lucrative business hub for healthcare cybersecurity solutions
As the country is becoming increasingly reliant on internet-connected tools and novel technologies, the prospects of cyberattacks on all domains, including healthcare, have grown multifold. For example, in October 2022, private-sector cybersecurity firms and federal agencies published an advisory that some hospitals in the U.S. experienced coordinated ransomware attacks focused on infecting systems for monetary gains, urging them to protect their networks and take necessary precautions.
In another instance, as recently as February 2023, KillNet, a pro-Russian hacktivist group, attacked hospitals and other facilities in the U.S. and other countries supporting Ukraine in the ongoing conflict between the two countries. As a result, hospitals in North Carolina, Michigan, Iowa, and Delaware reported issues with their websites.
However, the websites were soon restored by the concerned authorities and no impact on patient care was reported. The incident exposed the vulnerabilities of the existing healthcare infrastructure to cybercriminals. With such instances not expected to witness any downfall in the coming years, the demand for healthcare cybersecurity will only inflate in the foreseeable future.
What is the future of healthcare cybersecurity?
As a mitigation strategy, governments and associated authorities globally have been rolling strict laws and amendments to control the haphazard growth of cybercrimes. For instance, in 2021, an amendment to the HITECH Act was signed into law instructing HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to assess if a breached healthcare commodity has made a good faith attempt to enforce “recognized security practices” before issuing penalties.
Such favorable initiatives will mandate healthcare providers to expedite their efforts toward employing effective and robust cybersecurity solutions across their networks to protect valuable patient data. Hence, making way for new growth opportunities for the healthcare cybersecurity business.
Pursuing her professional career as a content writer for over two years now, Pooja Sharma is endowed with a post-graduate degree in English Literature. The articles that she writes are a balanced blend of her ever-growing love of language and the technical expertise that she has gained over the years. An aspiring singer and part-time cook, Pooja aim to broaden her horizons and deliver significant wisdom to the multitudes through her work.